By Elizabeth M. Ward, M.S., R.D.
Mars Inc, the company that makes M&Ms, Skittles, and Twix candy bars, announced last week that it plans to sell products with no more than 250 calories per portion by the end of 2013.
You’d think that, as a dietitian and advocate of healthy eating, I’d be thrilled at the prospect. Well, I would be pleased, if I thought Mars was doing everything possible to help people eat fewer candy calories.
At best, I am cautiously optimistic. One reason is that “per portion” is the operative phrase in Mars’ attempts to reduce candy calories.
Here’s another example of why I’m not jumping for joy. According to information on the company web site, in many markets, Mars has replaced the Snickers King Size bar with Snickers 2 Go, two smaller bars that total 440 calories. Incidentally, the label on the Snickers King Size bar said it contained three servings; the entire bar totaled 510 calories.
The idea behind breaking down a larger candy bar into two equal portions is that you can eat one serving now and save the other for later.
I don’t know about you, but once a candy wrapper is open, all bets are off. There is little to no chance that I would save the other candy bar for later. And by later, I mean the next day, so as not to blow my daily calorie budget.
Let’s face it: Candy is fun. But if you eat it on a regular basis, portion-control is key. To be fair, Mars makes Dove Bars for under 250 calories, and many 3Musketeers products have reasonable calorie levels, too.
“Choosing a candy bar with less than 250 calories a serving is a good first step,” says Karen Ansel, MS, RD, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and co-author of Healthy In A Hurry: Simple, Wholesome Recipes for Every Meal of the Day. “An even better step would be to break it in half and split it with a friend.”
Allowing small, but satisfying amounts of candy, or any other favorite food, that fits into your calorie allowance is often the key to long-term weight control, says Ansel.
I’m not one of those hardliners who wishes candy would just go away, although its disappearance would make it easier for some people – including me – to control their weight.
Sure, Mars has made an effort to help consumers eat fewer calories, but, in the end, self-control rules the day.